Mastering The Single Light Set-Up – Tutorial

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you my go to hack for creating a perfectly lit, cinematic interview shot that will transform your videos.

In part one of the cinematic lighting tips series I want to show you this super simple tip for creating beautiful cinematic light on your interview or talking head videos. This single tip should be your go-to, your starting point for all your videos from now on, and every-time you set up you can smile to yourself smuggly… in the knowledge that you once took my tip, for free.

For these examples we are not using any fancy or expensive lights, and thats to make sure the end results are achievable by anyone that watches this. We’re going to be using a simple $30 softbox from amazon, the links below if you’re interested. 

Let’s start by introducing the Key light to the scene. The temptation by a lot of new filmmakers here will be to place this either directly in-front of the subject, or level and flat with their face. Other times I’ve seen filmmakers light from an angle that is:  too low or too high, which again is just wrong. If you’re doing this STOP, let the Cinematic Organisation of Camera Know-How show you the way. 

Start by raising your keylight up! and angling it downwards, so that the light source is hitting the subject from a more natural angle, this is around 30 to ideally 45 degrees. 

Now that you have achieved this, move your light away from dead centre. Having the light directly in front of your subject makes their face seem flat and lifeless. We’re trying to create some texture and depth to make this ordinary shot more cinematic. To do this move your light off centre and onto a 30-45 degree angle to one side. 

From here you’ll see that we’re fully lighting one side of his face, whilst casting a slight shadow on his farside. 

As you’re doing this pay close attention to the character’s far-side eye, under this we want the light to slightly break the shadows and paint a small triangle under his eye. This is called Rembrandt lighting; there’s a whole tutorial on that subject, but not here, not today, pace yourself – one tip at a time. 

Of course this is just a simple hack, by all means play around with this one light set-up, try slightly changing the height, angle and axis of the light to get the most out of your interview or talking head shot.

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